Map Pilot Alternative?

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Does anyone have suggestions of alternate flight control software for photogrammetry that can handle terrain following & perform automated linear missions in addition to standard grid/lawnmower pattern?

Up until now I've been a user of Map Pilot Business but I don't want to adopt their new subscription model (my experience is the same as already posted by HarleyDude "Map Pilot extortion"). I did email them about it and their response was basically "too bad" and they had to make the change because 3rd party data suppliers are charging significantly more to provide SRTM data.

In an attempt to follow forum rules, I'm not looking to get into the disgruntlement with Map Pilot, rather I just want to know what else is out there to accomplish the same tasks.
Again I need terrain follow + grid/lawnmower pattern + linear corridor mapping.

I did find UgCS which offers a perpetual license for $600 and can import custom terrain -but it appears to be a desktop planning on a computer & then upload to the ipad. It doesn't look like you can mission plan directly on the ipad (a pain if you need to change something in the field). I haven't tried the trial yet.

Any other suggestions?
Thank you in advance.
 
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Hello!
I read about your problem with "Map Pilot" and decided to share it with you. I've been flying photogrammetry with "Precision Flight" for years. Yes I have not purchased the program and for that I do not take advantage of cloud data processing.
Regards - Zheko
 
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Hello!
I read about your problem with "Map Pilot" and decided to share it with you. I've been flying photogrammetry with "Precision Flight" for years. Yes I have not purchased the program and for that I do not take advantage of cloud data processing.
Regards - Zheko
Thank you! I'll check it out.
Is it available for iOS or Android only?
 

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This company advertises on our forums so you might want to check them out. They appear to be very versatile.

 
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This company advertises on our forums so you might want to check them out. They appear to be very versatile.

Great reference. Thank you. I have not encountered them in the past.
 
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I saw their ad quite accidentally and went to their website. Seemed to cover a lot of bases.
I have done some beta testing for Hammer and they are great. They respond to user feedback and implement suggestions quickly. Although I don’t use Hammer for mapping, I have found it to be a very reliable app.

I highly recommend them if it meets your mapping needs.

Chris
 
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Again I need terrain follow + grid/lawnmower pattern + linear corridor mapping.
Exactly. I need these same features. I'll add "connectionless flight" for some of the longer corridor missions.


I did find UgCS which offers a perpetual license for $600 and can import custom terrain -but it appears to be a desktop planning on a computer & then upload to the ipad. It doesn't look like you can mission plan directly on the ipad (a pain if you need to change something in the field). I haven't tried the trial yet.
Again, exactly. While I can certainly bring a laptop, we are often far, far away from WiFi and often in either spotty or non-existent cell coverage. I have a feeling that "importing" or "exporting" missions TO the iPad would not only be very persnickety in the field, but probably also requires Internet. The inability to "edit on the fly" is a total deal breaker for any mapping software.


Any other suggestions?
Thank you in advance.
I'm still looking. I'll preface my comments by saying that it seems all these companies have strong-armed us into iOS 13. It's absolutely maddening that companies force us into updates we don't want. I froze my 12.9" iPad @ iOS 12.3.1 and couldn't be happier about it. Unwilling to update my iOS, I purchased another iPad and have allowed it to update to iOS 13.2.2. Barring some kind of insurmountable bug, I plan on locking it down. So so far this little adventure MapPilot has sent me on has cost me $1,000. I know some will say, "You could have just updated your iPad." No, I couldn't. I have about a dozen business programs that require legacy iOS. That said...

I looked into Drone Deploy (another company that requires iOS 13.x), but it doesn't seem to have the option to disable LAANC. Too many posts in this forum regarding erroneous LAANC restrictions which prevented their drone from launching for me to trust software that RELIES on LAANC. I work with survey crews that are not only expensive for my client, but require a lot of logistical pre-planning. Plus I'm miles from WiFi and cell coverage. I can't be stuck out in the field shrugging my shoulders because my drone won't launch because it can't connect to LAANC or it has flagged some pre-WWII landing field as an NFZ. My clients demand 100% reliability, which I have provided them for over 7 years. 99.5% reliability won't get it.

As you're aware, we were able to disable LAANC in Map Pilot:

1628863063140.png


Drone Deploy doesn't seem to allow this option:
1628863413523.png


I have emailed Drone Deploy, but haven't heard back from them as of this writing. Their support guy, Tyler, has been pretty good about responding to email. However, it seems Drone Deploy is based out of Australia (it's midnight there now). So support communication is a bit slow.

I see there are other suggestions here. I am certainly going to explore them.

How about you? You and I seem to be on the exact same page mapping-wise. Any hopeful candidates?

D
 
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If you are interested in Hammer message me and I can see if I can connect you with Varun at Hammer via email to answer any technical questions you may have about their software.

Chris
 

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However, it seems Drone Deploy is based out of Australia (it's midnight there now). So support communication is a bit slow.
DroneDeploy is definitely not based in Australia.
The overhead traffic signs in the picture here shows where they are:
 
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DroneDeploy is definitely not based in Australia.
The overhead traffic signs in the picture here shows where they are:
Copy that. I may have mixed them up with another drone company. I'm presently in dialog with a half dozen companies.

D
 
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How about you? You and I seem to be on the exact same page mapping-wise. Any hopeful candidates?

D
I honestly am coming up empty on alternatives that aren't going to cost a monthly subscription (or one more than Map Pilot). In short, I've reviewed features of several flight apps and none have quite matched everything I'm looking for.

I looked at Hammer briefly but it appears their linear mission is just a single line as opposed to providing an offset feature for multiple passes along a corridor. Their support looks like it would be extremely friendly and willing to explore creating new mission types/features but at the end of the day their cheapest plan at $40/mo. is just too much, compared to $15 on Map Pilot.

I'm running iOS exclusively (no android apps) I found these but they're missing features (assuming I didn't miss something when I was messing around with them):
3Dsurvey Pilot - doesn't have terrain aware feature.
Measure Ground Control - no linear corridor plan, no terrain following
Datufly - No terrain aware
Pix4dCapture - no linear corridor, no terrain
DroneDeploy - no linear corridor

It PAINS me to send more money to Map Pilot every month after...well you know. But right now in the middle of my busy season, I unfortunately have reserved myself to finish out the year paying for the pro level subscription until something better comes along.

I hate this monthly subscription business model that every software company uses now. If UgCS developed a solution for flight plan modification directly on the iPad, I'd pay the $600 perpetual license and call it a day even though $600 = 40 months on Map Pilot (at today's rate, assuming they don't jack their prices).

Like you, I don't want to be forced into buying new hardware to support the same missions & equipment I've been flying all along. I don't own a laptop but one might be in my future if UgCS is my only other option after testing it out.
 
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I honestly am coming up empty on alternatives that aren't going to cost a monthly subscription (or one more than Map Pilot). In short, I've reviewed features of several flight apps and none have quite matched everything I'm looking for.
Discouraging.



I looked at Hammer briefly but it appears their linear mission is just a single line as opposed to providing an offset feature for multiple passes along a corridor.
This is very disappointing. My corridor missions are usually just two flight lines - out and back. These are usually shot at a 15° oblique angle for collecting "flat" data like asphalt and water. Other longer corridor missions have been shot nadir, but still require at least 2 flight lines, if not 4.




Their support looks like it would be extremely friendly and willing to explore creating new mission types/features but at the end of the day their cheapest plan at $40/mo. is just too much, compared to $15 on Map Pilot.
I will not be utilizing any "post" features, as all I need to do is collect photos which will be processed in Pix4D. I have found that most membership-based drone apps seems to ramp up fees on the post-production side. So...my monthly fees may be less. Is $40/month for just basic data (photo) collection?



I'm running iOS exclusively (no android apps)
Same here.


I found these but they're missing features (assuming I didn't miss something when I was messing around with them):
3Dsurvey Pilot - doesn't have terrain aware feature.
Measure Ground Control - no linear corridor plan, no terrain following
Datufly - No terrain aware
Pix4dCapture - no linear corridor, no terrain
DroneDeploy - no linear corridor
Argh. Maddening.



It PAINS me to send more money to Map Pilot every month after...well you know. But right now in the middle of my busy season, I unfortunately have reserved myself to finish out the year paying for the pro level subscription until something better comes along.
I haven't ruled out MapPilot, either. I agree that, in the scheme of things, $150/year is reasonable. I just don't like the way they completely changed their platform, outed their existing customers, locked me out of the support portal, didn't grandfather in existing customers, and then gave me a "tough luck" attitude. I also bet dollars to doughnuts that their new "updated" monthly pay version will be more Nazi-ish at its core, forcing me into new a new iOS and possibly preventing flights in places I was able to fly before with the old MapPilot. This is all speculation, but I have a feeling that this is why they completely dumped their old platform.

The good news is that I have a new Gen 3 iPad set up as my "crash iPad" that I've allowed to update to iOS 13. I can do whatever I wish to this iPad without screwing up what I've already accomplished in my old Gen 3 iPad. I may have to give the "new Map Pilot" a gander....<:^/



I hate this monthly subscription business model that every software company uses now. If UgCS developed a solution for flight plan modification directly on the iPad, I'd pay the $600 perpetual license and call it a day even though $600 = 40 months on Map Pilot (at today's rate, assuming they don't jack their prices).

Like you, I don't want to be forced into buying new hardware to support the same missions & equipment I've been flying all along. I don't own a laptop but one might be in my future if UgCS is my only other option after testing it out.
You have me at a loss. What is "UgCS?" That said, whatever it is, not being able to change missions on the iPad in the field on the fly is pretty much a deal breaker.

All this is so maddening. Sometimes I can't stand this world we now live in where products we purchased on good faith that they would work forever just stop working. I just can't wait until the car industry catches up to this new paradigm. "Sorry Mr. Frank. Your old Tesla S model is no longer supported. Please return it to the factory for proper disposal. We will provide a new Teslas with a 5% customer appreciation discount." ARGH.

D
 
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DroneDeploy - no linear corridor
What's this?
 
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What's this?
Ah good call.. I forgot about drone deploy having the app marketplace to add more features/functions. I will have to look into that further. Thank you!
 
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You have me at a loss. What is "UgCS?" That said, whatever it is, not being able to change missions on the iPad in the field on the fly is pretty much a deal breaker.

ugcs.com

It's ground station & flight planning software but I haven't tried the trial yet. It looks quite powerful and well featured but as I mentioned from what little poking around I did, it appears you can only fly pre-planned missions on the ipad. They claim you don't need an internet connection to do the planning in the field though (presumably after you have cached the basemap files). So in theory you could reconfigure the flight plan if you have/bring your laptop with you. But again, not ideal compared with ipad flight planning, especially since I already have a ton of other equipment and devices to charge & bring.

In other news, I did successfully complete a job today with the subscription version of Map Pilot (Pro level subscription -needed linear flight plan). It seems to work pretty much the same as before with Map Pilot Business version. They changed the interface a little but generally it was the same experience. There isn't anything there for new 'features' to interest me in an "upgrade" if I was given the choice though. I would have stayed on the original as long as I flew a P4.
You'll be happy to know the switch is still there to turn off LAANC with Airmap.
 
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ugcs.com

It's ground station & flight planning software but I haven't tried the trial yet. It looks quite powerful and well featured but as I mentioned from what little poking around I did, it appears you can only fly pre-planned missions on the ipad. They claim you don't need an internet connection to do the planning in the field though (presumably after you have cached the basemap files). So in theory you could reconfigure the flight plan if you have/bring your laptop with you. But again, not ideal compared with ipad flight planning, especially since I already have a ton of other equipment and devices to charge & bring.

In other news, I did successfully complete a job today with the subscription version of Map Pilot (Pro level subscription -needed linear flight plan). It seems to work pretty much the same as before with Map Pilot Business version. They changed the interface a little but generally it was the same experience. There isn't anything there for new 'features' to interest me in an "upgrade" if I was given the choice though. I would have stayed on the original as long as I flew a P4.
You'll be happy to know the switch is still there to turn off LAANC with Airmap.
I bit the bullet and also test flew the trial pro version of Map Pilot. My critique is exactly the same. The interface is different - a bit nicer IMHO, but not a carrot for an upgrade. Disabled LAANC and flew a test mission on the bleeding edge of Class D airspace (Drone Deploy demanded LAANC approval). Mission upload seems to be faster than before. The interface is a bit crisper, but that might be due to the new Gen 3 iPad, which is exactly the same as my old Gen 3 iPad, but with cell capabilities (which I will probably never use - but who knows....). I flew 2 missions; a small double grid with Terrain Awareness and a Corridor (linear) mission (Connectionless), also with Terrain Awareness. I flew both missions disconnected from the Internet just to be sure that basemaps and SRTM data were being cached. I also did battery changes mid-mission for both missions. I also tested the "Mission Pause" button (misnamed "STOP" button). I tested manual focus and camera controls. I like Shutter Priority, so flew that way. The photos came out sharp and properly exposed as usual.

I experienced a double bug where the mission wouldn't upload, and the error message window was covered by the "Mission Uploading" window. A restart of the app fixed it.
1629086206463.png


A second bug was the app unable to load P4P vehicle parameters, but yet said it was connected to the P4P. I rebooted the bird and the controller and unplugged and replugged the USB-C cable to no avail. The "fix" was to close and then restart the app.

I haven't paid for it yet, but honestly, I probably will. I'm going to see what happens when the trial runs out.

D
 
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I experienced a double bug where the mission wouldn't upload, and the error message window was covered by the "Mission Uploading" window. A restart of the app fixed it.

A second bug was the app unable to load P4P vehicle parameters, but yet said it was connected to the P4P. I rebooted the bird and the controller and unplugged and replugged the USB-C cable to no avail. The "fix" was to close and then restart the app.

I haven't paid for it yet, but honestly, I probably will. I'm going to see what happens when the trial runs out.

D
I did run into some bugs along the way myself, although to be fair I believe I was having the same issues on MP Business.

1) No big deal, easy work around, but I like to lift off manually, get the drone 6-8' above ground to confirm flight controls react properly and move clear of overhead obstructions if needed, and then execute the mission. If I lift off manually and then upload the mission with terrain aware, the app crashes. My guess is the app is trying to match current terrain aware elevation with flight level -0-. If the drone is already X' above ground it doesn't match & crashes. Easy fix, upload on the ground, lift off manually, then execute.

2) I have had issues running connectionless where every once in a while a photo or two on the flight line gets skipped/missed. I haven't figured out why. Usually I catch it while the mission is running and manually fly back to the missed location at the end of auto-flight before bringing it back down. I confirmed too that it is in fact not taking the picture as opposed to just not reporting it back to the app while in flight.

I guess this is what I'm stuck with for now though...

For me, if I'm being honest, one advantage of subscription will be I can process my own terrain data if needed without costing any extra. In the past I've had a few jobs for flight after construction where the existing ground has been cut or filled as much as 60'. I was able to merge proposed site grading + existing survey topo + locally available LIDAR or other DEM terrain source. The resulting terrain aware flight was spot-on. That won't (shouldn't) cost me any extra now. So if I get enough of those types of jobs the subscription cost might be a wash overall.

I'll update you on whatever else I learn along the way...
 
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I did run into some bugs along the way myself, although to be fair I believe I was having the same issues on MP Business.

1) No big deal, easy work around, but I like to lift off manually, get the drone 6-8' above ground to confirm flight controls react properly and move clear of overhead obstructions if needed, and then execute the mission. If I lift off manually and then upload the mission with terrain aware, the app crashes.
That was one of my biggest complaints with MapPilot; that missions can't be uploaded while in flight. They said it was a "safety" thing, but every other app on the planet allows it. So I don't know what they're talking about.

I also use AutoPilot, which does allow missions to be uploaded while the bird is aloft. So I essentially manually fly to the first waypoint, upload the mission, and then go. I honestly wish I could do this with MapPilot because the old version flew out to the first waypoint at mission speed (haven't tested this with the new version yet). So if I'm flying a low mission with a high GSD (say < 200'), mission speed might be hamstringed to 10 mph. I would prefer to fly out at top speed and THEN upload the mission. I could see where this *might* mess with the SRTM data, but not if the app knows that the launch point is also the home point, and adjusts accordingly.

NOTE: RTH always brings the bird home at max speed (which is around 33 mph).

Case in point; If I fly a 200' AGL mission in AutoPilot, and upload the mission while the bird is at 150' AGL, she doesn't jump up to 350' AGL. The home point is established as soon as the bird is fired up. I don't see why MP can't do the same. That said...

In high winds I HAVE been able to launch the bird about 6' in the air and SOMETIMES am able to upload the mission (as you eluded to). But I like your idea of UPLOADING while on the ground and then EXECUTING while aloft. I will give this a shot!

To get around high-wind launch issues I've been simply placing the launch pad on the downwind side of my vehicle. This has actually worked quite well.


My guess is the app is trying to match current terrain aware elevation with flight level -0-. If the drone is already X' above ground it doesn't match & crashes. Easy fix, upload on the ground, lift off manually, then execute.
Bingo. Gonna try that.




2) I have had issues running connectionless where every once in a while a photo or two on the flight line gets skipped/missed. I haven't figured out why.
Well...I've noticed the same. The thing is that the photo(s) IS/ARE being taken. It's/they're just not being logged in the app due to connection issues. I've gone well over a minute with zero telemetry. It can be daunting, but following the 6 P's (Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance), we KNOW that there's plenty of battery left to bring the bird back into range. On one job, it turned out that there was massive WiFi interference where the drone made a right turn. So for a little over a minute we had zero telemetry. But that's the great advantage of Connectionless flight. And we utilize that advantage on some jobs.



Usually I catch it while the mission is running and manually fly back to the missed location at the end of auto-flight before bringing it back down. I confirmed too that it is in fact not taking the picture as opposed to just not reporting it back to the app while in flight.
Interesting. My experience was different. Just curious; What were your parameters? Depending on what I'm shooting, Corridor (AKA; "Linear") missions are usually about 250' AGL with 70/70 overlap. If the purpose of the mission is to shoot asphalt or water, we tilt the camera @ 15° and shoot 70/80 (or is it 80/70???). Anyway, we haven't noticed any mission photos with Connectionless missions. That said, with "Connected" missions, the missing dots DO correspond with missing photos.

Just curious; Do you fly your Linear missions Connectionless? I always do because they are usually farther out than usual (up to 2 miles) and have only a few waypoints (20 or 30 tops). So I figure, why not just send the bird out there with all the waypoint data in the FC and let him do his thing.



I guess this is what I'm stuck with for now though...

For me, if I'm being honest, one advantage of subscription will be I can process my own terrain data if needed without costing any extra.
True. But I work with a survey crew and GCP's (Ground Control Points) for very tight tolerances. I'm not sure if GCP data can be imported into a MapPilot rendering. We use Pix4D for that (which is very expensive).



In the past I've had a few jobs for flight after construction where the existing ground has been cut or filled as much as 60'. I was able to merge proposed site grading + existing survey topo + locally available LIDAR or other DEM terrain source. The resulting terrain aware flight was spot-on. That won't (shouldn't) cost me any extra now. So if I get enough of those types of jobs the subscription cost might be a wash overall.
Good for you, man. That sounds like a great work flow. Other than the occasionall survey marker, we don't use any outside data sources.



I'll update you on whatever else I learn along the way...
Ditto. I'll do the same. I'm busy doing other things today, but plan on doing some test flights tomorrow.

D
 
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So if I'm flying a low mission with a high GSD (say < 200'), mission speed might be hamstringed to 10 mph. I would prefer to fly out at top speed and THEN upload the mission.

Exactly! I hate that it runs the whole flight at mission speed. There appears to be support for two different flight speeds in this new version, but I haven't played with or figured it out yet (far be it for me to actually read the documentation...)
I think in MP Business I tried the upload, fly out to start point, & execute mission method and it didn't work. If memory serves me correctly, the first "waypoint" in the mission is the start of the 'blue line' intended flight path that shows after pressing the upload button. When I tried it, I flew it to the start point of my mission only to have it auto-fly back to the launch point. I'll have to try again in new version if I get some time.

NOTE: RTH always brings the bird home at max speed (which is around 33 mph).
I didn't realize that. Good to know. I never bother with RTH, as I prefer to manually fly it home. Sometimes I'll stop along the way and grab a few scenery-type photos for future marketing purposes or to share with the client if it's something useful to them (i.e. overall view of construction in progress).

To get around high-wind launch issues I've been simply placing the launch pad on the downwind side of my vehicle. This has actually worked quite well.
I have a pickup truck & launch out of the bed if I need to for wind or off the tailgate to avoid a dust cloud. Most of my reason for manual takeoff though besides flight controls check is to avoid overhead obstructions. I will say though, the compass is really not happy sitting in the truck bed...

Well...I've noticed the same. The thing is that the photo(s) IS/ARE being taken. It's/they're just not being logged in the app due to connection issues. I've gone well over a minute with zero telemetry. It can be daunting, but following the 6 P's (Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance), we KNOW that there's plenty of battery left to bring the bird back into range. On one job, it turned out that there was massive WiFi interference where the drone made a right turn. So for a little over a minute we had zero telemetry. But that's the great advantage of Connectionless flight. And we utilize that advantage on some jobs.
I firmly believe that other than for obvious safety reasons, a consistent pre-flight routine & the 6 P's is what differentiates the professionals.

Interesting. My experience was different. Just curious; What were your parameters? Depending on what I'm shooting, Corridor (AKA; "Linear") missions are usually about 250' AGL with 70/70 overlap. If the purpose of the mission is to shoot asphalt or water, we tilt the camera @ 15° and shoot 70/80 (or is it 80/70???). Anyway, we haven't noticed any mission photos with Connectionless missions. That said, with "Connected" missions, the missing dots DO correspond with missing photos.

Just curious; Do you fly your Linear missions Connectionless? I always do because they are usually farther out than usual (up to 2 miles) and have only a few waypoints (20 or 30 tops). So I figure, why not just send the bird out there with all the waypoint data in the FC and let him do his thing.
I'm pretty much always running connectionless now for all missions and I always have terrain aware active. I'll typically run with overlaps at 80 along the course / 75 side overlap, no camera tilt. Height depends on the subject area. I'll fly 200' AGL to keep the GSD low if I'm able. Some missions of course require higher altitude depending on size of the subject area or other limitations. One recent job was over a local 6-8 lane highway w/o a median. No flights over traffic kept me on the shoulders flying at 325' AGL to get the overlap. Lately though everything has been in the 10-25 acre range so the flights don't take very long even at 200' AGL.

To be honest, placing the GCP's is the most time consuming part of these jobs for me (although obviously I would need less of them if I flew higher). My flying is done separate from the survey crew so I handle placing/painting targets & fly and they follow afterwards to survey the GCP locations. I do also pickup the GCP locations myself using a pair of Emlid Reach RS2 GPS units though just in case a point gets lost before the crew acquires it. That also enables me to provide them the exact point location so they should have no excuse for not finding a ground spike (nevermind the marking paint, wooden stake, & survey flagging...some people just like to complain).

True. But I work with a survey crew and GCP's (Ground Control Points) for very tight tolerances. I'm not sure if GCP data can be imported into a MapPilot rendering. We use Pix4D for that (which is very expensive).
I haven't bothered with Maps Made Easy processing other than for custom terrain purposes. I guess there is some workflow there for incorporating GCPs but I'm not a fan of automatic processing services for anything more than a quick/cheap orthomosaic anyway.

Good for you, man. That sounds like a great work flow. Other than the occasionall survey marker, we don't use any outside data sources.
Thank you. I used Civil 3D to export the proposed topo & QGIS to merge with other source data & produce the final raster.

Anyway, it's been a pleasure swapping knowledge with you. I look forward to talking more. Keep up the good work!
 
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